(syn), “together,” and (aisthaesis), “sensation”

a neurologically-based condition in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway

‘Light can be synaesthetically transformed into matter that can almost be touched, smelled or heard’ [Agostino De Rosa, 2009]

There exists a strong, dual cognitive phenomenon that we experience with light and solid objects. The abstract, immaterial nature of this is inherently an extremely hard thing to describe. The common thread that links the two is, ironically, another metaphysical, intangible thing: space. Imagine, for instance, that shaft of light that beams through the dusty loft window – it occupies space, with geometric boundaries, in a way not dissimilar from your own body. And yet the illusion is realised when we pass our hand through this light – it is haptically transparent, it provides our body no resistance to force.

 “There are some qualities, some incorporate things, that have a double life which thus is made a type of that twin entity which springs from matter and light” [Poe, circa. 1840]

Poe makes an astonishing insight, no less than eighty years before Einstein proves the scientific relationship between energy [light] and matter. His description however is one of intuition and did not rely on scientific discoveries to determine how he experienced phenomenon. What validates ‘luminaesthesia’ as a worthy description of spatial experience is that the scientific world unified electromagnetic radiation and matter, with magnificent and suitably mind-warping theory: “Einstein said that mass actually bends space, like a heavy ball stretching a rubber sheet” [Serra, 2005]

This ‘thingness’ of light isn’t a mere mis-categorization, or indeed a scientific folly, but the result of our ability to interpret these spatial entities with the same neurological tools.

  1. Portmanteau. Luminescence + synaesthesia. 
  2. This is wikipedia’s definition of ‘synaesthesia’ – – accessed on 13.03.2010
  3. Agostino De Rosa, 2009, Geometry of Light, Hatje Cantz, p90
  4. Edgar Allen Poe as quoted in: 2000, Parallax, Princeton Architectural Press, p104
  5. Serra, R. 2005 The Matter of Time, Guggenheim, p20 : quoting john guinn ‘gravity +gravitation; einstein’s general relativity’